Bridging The Gap Between Eastern And Western Medicine
How Practices From BOTH Hemispheres Help To Promote A Healthier Mind
The clock reads 3:00 a.m. and I am wide awake. I toss and turn, anxiety flooding my senses. I am somehow both exhausted and restless. By the time sleep finally defeats my senses, my alarm blares and it is back to the harsh reality of a new day. The thought of getting myself up and completing even the most miniscule of tasks seems overwhelmingly daunting. I ask myself, how will I make it through the day feeling this way? How can I possibly move myself from my bed? The answer is somewhere deep inside of me. A small voice sounds off, “get up." And so I do.
This has been my experience during countless sleepless nights throughout a not-so-distant season of my life. Maybe you find yourself here now, or maybe you can relate to the state of mental warfare, in which every single thought is like being on a battlefield. I was not alone, and neither are you. Nearly one in five Americans live with a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. As the month of May is mental health awareness month, it is time for a much-needed check in. Let’s take this opportunity to slow down. Pause. Before you read on, take a breath. Acknowledge that it has been a rough couple of years for our world. There are still many unknowns which can feel so insanely scary. Beyond the chaotic atmosphere of 2022, it is important to note that mental health issues can be caused from biological factors such as genetics and family history, brain chemistry, and traumatic life events. No matter the underlying cause, both Eastern and Western medicines can help you find healing. So read on brave warrior and know that there is light at the end of the tunnel!
FIRST THING'S FIRST...
Let us make sure we understand what sets each practice apart:
Western Medicine includes pharmaceutical drugs, surgery, and lifestyle changes.
Eastern Medicine is an umbrella term for acupuncture, herbal medicine, tui-na (ancient Chinese massage), cupping therapy, eastern diagnosis, GI mapping, nutritional analysis, and more.
Integrative Medicine is a combination of both conventional and non-mainstream practices which focus on the WHOLE individual.
HOW DO I KNOW WHICH IS BEST FOR ME?
THE ANSWER? All three can help to heal your mind, body, and spirit. At Acushen Clinic, we believe in starting with the ROOT of the internal conflict. This will be different for each patient based on his/her own genetic makeup, overall health, lifestyle, life history and emotional state, including emotional triggers. Dr. Sarah Anzola explains, “We view depression as a disturbance of the Shen (spirit) or mind. This often translates into a person’s feelings of worthlessness, lack of energy, unclear thoughts, among other things."
One form of healing which Dr. Anzola has found to be extremely nourishing for her patients is herbal medicine.
“A common herb that we prescribe in customized herbal formulas for depression is magnolia bark (Hou Po). The goal for herbal medicine is to calm the Shen, sooth the liver, and move the Qi (energy). After a patient’s first appointment they usually can notice the results, although it takes a consistent treatment plan to move out depression and re-balance the mind, body, and spirit.”
In addition to herbal medicine, acupuncture treatments can be beneficial in creating a customized plan of action based on the patient’s unique symptoms and imbalances.
“When it comes to depression, we often treat the liver, spleen, and lung meridian. For anxiety, we may also add acupuncture points along the heart meridian. We use a total of about 15 - 20 different acupuncture points depending on the patient and let them rest for 20 minutes with the needles in.”
To reap the full benefits of the session, Anzola recommends two acupuncture treatments within the first two weeks of beginning treatment, and then once a week for a series of six weeks. After about six to ten treatments, a re-evaluation will be completed to assess further needs.
We know the word “treatment” can feel a little bit scary too. And yet, we hope that you are starting to see – there are SO. MANY. THINGS. that you can do for YOU. The more you can focus on self-care including what is going on inside and how it materializes in your body, mind, and spirit – the more you invite in space for internal healing. It takes work, and I would be lying if I said it is not a painful journey. The effort and patience will pay off. And it will be worth it.
Even with so many success stories from both Eastern and Integrative approaches, sometimes extra help is required. Combining pharmaceutical (Western Medicine) and Integrative Medicine interventions is effective at treating 60 to 70 percent of patients with depression. Keep in mind: pharmaceutical medication can produce adverse side effects and are not safe for all individuals (such as pregnant and lactating women). This is when integrating evidence-based medicine, including acupuncture, can be incredibly powerful for overall healing. Check out the below research published in the National Library of Medicine:
A meta-analysis of the use of acupuncture AND antidepressants for treating depression found that the combination was more effective than the use of antidepressants alone.
A randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at the impact of a twelve-week acupuncture intervention on the quality of life of patients with depression. The study found that those in the acupuncture group had significant improvement in eight quality of life domains including physical function, pain, energy, social and emotional function, and mental health.
THERE IS NO MAGIC PILL...
Dr. Anzola points out that Western Medicine often overlooks critical factors which are necessary in addressing the big picture. “This is when Integrative Medicine bridges the gap in our current healthcare system. When treating mental health, it is extremely beneficial for an individual to not only take pharmaceutical medicine if required, but to understand his/her body and mind on a deeper level to get down to the root of the issue. It is not until you treat the root cause that you can help to liberate someone of depression," stresses Anzola. "One’s mental outlook, diet and lifestyle, hormone imbalances, gut microbiome imbalances, among other factors should all be considered.”
THE OVERALL TAKEAWAY
There are many tools in which you can pull from to improve your own mental health. However, you cannot begin to truly heal until you take the time to understand the what, why, where, and the how… There is no “one size fits all” and each person’s needs will be different. Some patients will find exactly what they need from Eastern, more holistic approaches. Others who struggle with severe depression may need to rely on Western Medicine to balance the chemicals in their brain. Many will need a carefully thought-out combination of all three practices. The big take away, there is something out there for YOU. Please know you are not alone, and help does exist. We also recommend seeking out a therapist who you feel comfortable talking with (this can take time to find as well).
My final two cents: I continue to struggle with depression and anxiety. Years ago, I was afraid to talk about it with others. It felt like a badge of shame that I tried to hide, and yet it consumed me. And now, I talk about it openly and honestly because I know there are others out there who are going through similar struggles. I am a living-breathing example of someone who has benefited from both Eastern, Western, and overall Integrative Medicinal practices. I also know, and hope that you know... that healing is a journey. There are still rough days, and there also really beautiful days. On the rough days, I seek out help from my own support system. There are people who see me, who love me, and who lift me up when I am not strong enough to do it myself. Just as there are people who see you and love you. So keep on keeping on. This too shall pass.
WHAT’S THE POINT???
This month’s Acu-point: HEART 7 (HT-7) “SPIRIT GATE”
Location: On the crease of your inner wrist towards the ulnar (pinky finger) side. Feel for a hollow place at the base of the pisiform bone.
How does it help?
HT7 is often used to strengthen the heart and nourish qi and blood. This pressure point is also known to settle anxiety/worrisome emotions and works to quiet the mind. It helps with sleep disturbances and emotional stress, releases tightness in the chest and even aids with heart palpitations.
If you or a loved one is struggling – check out https://www.crisishotline.org/ for additional resources surrounding mental health, including coping with suicidal thoughts.